Ad critique: Lunchables

Lunchables ad, Working Mother August/September 2010
Even da Vinci started somewhere,” and
It doesn’t get better than this.”

I laughed when I saw this ad. Then I shrugged and frowned. Now I’m sort of annoyed. Do you agree that this ad is strange and bizarre? Da Vinci and Lunchables? I have a feeling that Da Vinci ate a Mediterranean diet that wasn’t wrapped in plastic…. unbelievable! Are they making the absurd argument that by eating lunchables your child will turn into Da Vinci? And then “it doesn’t get better than this.” Oh really? An army of nutritionists would beg to differ.

What is telling about the ad is that the product does not take up much ad space. In fact you can barely see the lunchables. The advertisers are trying to suggest that adding a mandarin orange fruit cup makes a big difference in the healthiness of the product. I’m still not buying it.

We have talked about Lunchables before (in April). Some of the comments on that previous post blew my mind. Do parents really buy into this kind of advertising?


I went shopping and scoped out the lunchables. Here’s what I found:

 The display case
The bigger lunchables
Turkey and cheddar sandwich
Check out everything you get: bread, turkey, processed cheese, applesauce,
Nilla wafers, water bottle, package of kool aid powder to put in the water bottle, package of mayo
Look at that paragraph of ingredients and it’s 370 calories with 590 mg of sodium, 63g carbs
Pizza and pepperoni
Pizza crust, cheese, pepperoni, pizza sauce, cheese crackers,
chocolate chip cookies, water bottle, kool aid powder
 Another paragraph of ingredients, 880 mg sodium, 60 carbs, 40% of daily fat

I didn’t find the ones advertised in the ad that contain “mandarin oranges.” But I didn’t look that hard. There is so much packaging and no vegetables. Do you want your kids to eat these?

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72 thoughts on “Ad critique: Lunchables

  1. Our new school year begins on the 30th. This year I will have only first and 2nd graders in my school. I'm going to start taking an informal census of the types of lunches they bring from home. Might be interesting.

  2. This might be obvious, but nobody has brought it up yet – I interpreted the ad as – Da Vinci was an artist, and by "building/constructing" their own lunch, your child is somewhat of an artist as well.

    To me, the ad is much more about using humor to get people interested, rather than making comparisons about your kid can become the next genius or Da Vinci would eat lunchables.

    And I can't really say Lunchables should change their tactic – humor gets people interested, and I enjoy seeing new commercials that are funny. I don't know that a kid would even get this ad, so if a parent knows lunchables are bad, this ad is unlikely to persuade them otherwise – if they don't know, well, they were probably already buying them to begin with.

  3. When I was in elementary/middle school (about ten years ago +), the "in" lunch was lunchables. All the "cool" kids had them. I always wanted them too, but my mom never bought them for me. I'm really glad she didn't because I ended up with a much healthier lunch everyday (though I didn't know it at the time). Just thought I should throw that out there – Lunchables have been popular for a long time, and it looks like they are going to be sticking around for awhile because they are relatively cheap and very quick. However, I would suggest that parents teach their children how to pack their own lunches, and with healthy foods – that's what my parents did, and it takes about five minutes. It's not expensive – AND it's healthier if you make it that way 🙂

  4. Yes, I would love to read a post on feeding disorders, please!

    feeding picky eaters
    feeding kids with sensory disorders
    feeding kids with food allergies

    My 5-year-old was just diagnosed with Oral Allergy Syndrome, which means he needs to avoid pretty much all raw fruits and veggies. On top of that, he is super picky (maybe because so many things made his mouth sting before we knew?). We muddle our way through, but it's nearly impossible to get him to try new foods. I need healthy foods with lots of cooked veggies snuck in.

  5. No, I don't let my kids have them and after watching kids at school eat them, they don't ask for Lunchables. The only appeal for my son is the candy (or whatever sweet is packed in there). I often save small pieces of candy from Halloween or Christmas or the most recent holiday to dole out for lunch boxes from time to time…. think Hershey Kiss sized items. My boy is so sweet, he always saves his treat for last & if he doesn't have time to finish fruit or raw veggies at school, he'll bring everything home and only eat the candy after finishing the healthy stuff (ice pack's still cold!). His own habit, not my prompting!

  6. *thoughts being provoked* – thanks so much!

    @MJS — I like the idea of stashing holiday candy for later…I would eat it all though!

    I'm going to try and find someone to do a feeding disorders post!

  7. I would be interested in seeing a post about green smoothies. They are my mother's new obsession, and I don't think they are as well known as they should be. They pretty much taste only like fruit, but they put tons of nutrients from fruits and vegetables in you system in a very easy to digest form. It might be easier to get kids to eat green 'slime' that tastes like bananas than to get them to eat strange new vegetables.

  8. My first reaction to the ad was that "da Vinci" was not Leonardo's last name! But I'm a geek like that.

    I live in Scandinavia and there's no such thing as a Lunchable here. I've seen them on visits to the States, and just the amount of packaging involved made my jaw drop – never mind the sodium hit. My younger son (who's 10) sometimes packs himself something similar, with crackers, lunchmeat, and cheese, but I insist he put some fruit or vegetables in there, too, preferrably both. Usually he remembers without me saying a word. He has a Laptop Lunchbox so the containers are all reusable. I don't think the concept of the Lunchable is a bad thing, but the execution is something else.

  9. "They're not telling you anything you don't know. They aren't enlightening, not to me, and not to a single commenter here today"

    Is there a requirement that a blogger must enlighten everyone? I'm thinking there are probably people here who think lunchables are a good lunch choice.

    Heck, even Mrs Q made a lunch recently that she thought was quite healthy and turned out to be FULL of chemicals.

    You might know the difference. But I'm sure there are plenty of readers who do not. I'm sure there is a "single one"..or two..or seven who aren't as enlightened about lunchables. Many of those might not be posting in the comments section. I welcome a diversity of posts whether they enlighten me or not.

    Keep up the good work Mrs. Q.

  10. My son (who just finished Grade 5) likes the Lunchables because here in Saskatchewan, Canada they have points under the label. You log on the computer and enter your PIN code and then you can collect a prize of your choosing… usually 5 or 6 points per Lunchable depending on the size… I have bought them for him occasionally but mostly he gets the wrappers from his classmates before they throw them in the garbage… So far he has 862 points!!! So alot of Mothers DO buy these for their kids lunches… Planning to homeschool him this fall so the supply of points will dwindle significantly!! Lunchables know how to market their product, that's for sure!

  11. I think it is so funny they have "Deli Creations," which I assume is targeted towards adults. Great, Lunchables for adults…I would never feed my children this overly processed garbage. And they are quite expensive too. Who would have thought one would have to pay so much for overly processed and high sodium "foods."

  12. Sorry… my comment about points in Canada is actually a different product — LUNCHMATE Stackers by Schneiders and not Lunchables from Kraft… same idea though – they contain cheese, slices of meat and a mini chocolate bar and some crackers…

    Denise in Saskatchewan…

  13. When my kids wanted Lunchables as a travel meal (we were headed to my Mom's, a 10-hour drive), I let them do the math, and told them we had $X dollars designated for trip food. They very quickly figured out that bringing real food (good bread, real cheese, fruit, nuts, good chocolate, raw veggies, and leftover cold meats) brought them in under budget… and, being mercenary, they bargained to receive the budgetary difference for souvenirs.

    I do see a lot of kids eating Lunchables, but part of me says it's parental pandering, and not allowing them to develop a palate beyond the Kid Menu.

  14. nope – too much sodium and packaging. Last time I checked, because my kids do ask for them, the package wasn't recyclable in most municipalities

  15. The only time my 3 year old has been given a lunchable was by my mother in law. My daugher normally loves cheese, turkey, crackers, etc…her grandma opened up that lunchable and my daughter ate a bite of the cheese. Oh she was so grossed out! She said, "I want something else!". I felt a proud moment and felt like I had done something right as a mother. My daughter is used to eating fresh dairy, grains, fruits and veggies.

  16. I have to agree with anonymous above – but I'm not too shy to leave my name. This website was created to show what school's are doing for lunches and even lunches at home – not to throw remarks at how food is advertised and to whine at any parent who doesn't create a vegetarian lifestyle. A responsible parent knows to look past advertising, correct? I admit Lunchables are not the healthiest thing to eat, but in moderation any foods are okay. The stuff schools are currently feeding the students is probably just as bad if not worse in both the calorie and fat department.

    If this gets deleted, it just shows I am right about what I say…get back on topic with the blog.

  17. I'm a health food nut, and care seriously about wholesome options. Without kids of my own (yet), but having worked as a teacher, and being on the highly functioning end of the autistic spectrum, the boxed in, sectioned off lunches make sense to me from a psychological interest-nabbing point of view. A kid can feel like they're in control of what and how they eat.

    Sadly, that means we'd need more control of what the box the kid gets to eat from contains.

    I pack boxed lunches to my spouse, myself and occasionally some of his workmates in exchange for a little "pocket money". Most often they are Asian inspired or fusion style meals.

    I also sometimes cater larger scale to his entire office. The Laptop Lunches – series' boxes are practical for anyone who wishes to get their kids (or spouses) into healthier eating habits, but I've also tried to find disposable, compostable packaging materials for the bigger "catering" jobs. It is beginning to look like that I have to make really large scale orders, or start making my own packaging…

    For example a meal I pack can consist of wholegrain rice, light homemade chicken teriyaki, a green salad with seasonal berries and some pecan nuts, a light salad dressing, some salty snack crackers for when the nibbling urge hits, and a dessert of seasonal berries, or a wholegrain, low fat, no added sugar banana muffin.

    If I'd see this kind of meals developed into the Lunchables product spectrum, that'd be splendid, but sadly, soon the only way for consumers to really get what they want is to start up a company that offers a healthier, more desirable competition…

    I know of a person who is originally from the same place I was born; Finland, who founded a company in California that provides organic baby foods, after she realised there is not a single company in her area that offers such products for conscious consumers like her.

    Reading her story in a Finnish ladies' magazine made me think it'd be possible to make my own line of lunch foods. 🙂

    When this same principle she utilises for baby foods is transferred over to toddler and children's food options, we've taken another step in the right direction. I think.

    (Sorry for the rant…)

  18. The big thing that jumped out at me was about the packaging. It's all GREEN. Green used to mean organic or fresh or, I don't know, VEGETABLES. Now it's just being used to draw our eyes to their package of scary processed stuff because we're so used to looking for green to mean good.

    I don't buy Lunchables and wouldn't buy them for my nieces (I don't have kids). I am the weird Aunt who makes them try stuff like hummus and guacamole and naan. I'm more interested in turning them into people who want to try new, neat foods and cultures, rather than people who just go to the prefab food prep area of the store and buy 14 TV dinners and a box of Fruity Pebbles as groceries for the week.

  19. You forgot to mention some of the worst parts. Other than the horrible calories, and sodium intake, you really don’t know why half of what that contains is bad.
    Not the fat, not the sodium or the calories, those things are natural in it’s own sense, too much is bad yes I agree.
    What about the BHA preservative? That’s a silent, but not so slow of a killer, what about the bleached enriched bread? stripped of all it’s actual nutrients, how about the “red 40” coloring? do you really understand that what you find is bad in certain foods, are so mislead to what is really horribly wrong with the American food industry, you really have no idea about how almost all of those ingredients are there to keep you alive, but so, so, so un-healthy and even deathly sick…

    You really should do some re-search about these things before telling us what you think is bad about those foods….
    Aspartame is one of the biggest killers of all. Go a head, go drink a big pitcher of Crystal Light.
    IT’S GOOD FOR YOU! HA! not…

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